First Grade

The progression from kindergarten to first grade is a milestone for many students. During this year of a child’s early education, it is important to offer encouragement, celebrate achievements, and provide support for growth.

This webpage provides an overview of what your child will learn by the end of first grade as directed by the Iowa Core, our statewide academic standards. The Iowa Core standards focus on key concepts in mathematics, literacy, science, social studies, and 21st Century skills.


Your child will build on previous work and gain important new skills. Outcomes for the year include improving efficiency and accuracy to add with a sum of 20 or less and subtract from 20 or less (e.g., 17 – 8); and to add with a sum of 100 or less; this will rely on understanding what the digits mean in a number (63 is six tens and three ones).

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Solve addition and subtraction word problems in situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing by using objects, drawings and equations (e.g., taking from the situation: “Five apples were on the table. I ate some apples. Then there were three apples. How many apples did I eat?”).

  • Add with a sum of 20 or less and subtract from 20 or less by using strategies based around the number 10 (e.g., to solve 13 – 4, start with 13, subtract 3 to reach 10, and then subtract 1 more to reach 9).

  • Quickly and accurately add with a sum of 10 or less, and subtract from 10 or less (e.g., 2 + 5, 7 – 5).

  • Understand what the digits mean in two-digit numbers (place value).

  • Show understanding of place value to add and subtract (e.g., 38 + 5, 80 – 50).

  • Make composite shapes by joining shapes together and divide circles and rectangles into halves or fourths.

Math Resources for Parents

English Language Arts & Literacy

Your child will become a more independent reader and writer. He or she will continue to learn and practice rules for recognizing the sounds that make up words and will be able to sound out more complex words. Students will learn to think about what they read and talk about the main ideas of simple stories. They will learn to use language appropriately, write in complete sentences, and spell words with increasing accuracy.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Use phonics (matching letters and sounds) and word analysis skills to figure out unfamiliar words when reading and writing.

  • Make composite shapes by joining shapes together and divide circles and rectangles into halves or fourths.

  • Take part in conversations about topics and texts being studied by responding to the comments of others and asking questions when confused.

  • Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, and by clearly expressing ideas and feelings with complete sentences.

  • Produce and expand complete simple and compound statements, questions, commands, and exclamations.

  • Identify the correct meaning for a word that can have multiple meanings, based on the sentence or paragraph in which the word is used (e.g., decide whether the word “bat” means a flying mammal, or a club used in baseball).


In first grade, students have more fluency with language, number sense, and inquiry skills. Students focus on using patterns to predict events. They begin to develop answers to questions such as: “What happens when materials vibrate? What would we see in a room with no light? What are some ways plants and animals meet their needs so they can survive and grow? What objects can we see in the sky?” First-grade students will conduct investigations and use models to help make predictions about the natural and designed world.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Explore how differing amounts of light and the ability to see objects are related.

  • Plan and conduct investigations to discover how sound is produced.

  • Use drawings or other models to show how young plants and animals are like, but not exactly the same as, their parents.

  • Observe the external parts of plants and animals and make predictions about how plants and animals use those parts to help meet their needs.

  • Use observations from looking at the sky during the day and at night and identify patterns from sunrise/sunset data to make predictions.

Social Studies

In first grade, students will explore the culture of their own communities by examining leadership in their community, the role goods and services play in a community, and the history of diverse cultures over time.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Compare rules or laws within different communities.

  • Compare and contrast life in Iowa communities today to life in the past.

  • Describe how environmental characteristics impact different regions of the U.S.

  • Identify students’ cultural practices and those of others within the community and around the world.

  • Make connections to the concept of goods and services and the role of financial institutions in order to save and invest.

  • Discuss and take action to address local problems.

21st Century Skills

Your child will participate in activities that teach how good hygiene, healthy food choices, and adequate rest help him or her feel good and be ready to learn. Students will learn how to use technology in all curricular areas to communicate and appropriately work with others. They will practice work habits and social skills that will help them become successful students. Students will receive real-world experiences through visits from community members and parents who represent various professions and then participate in age-appropriate activities that are related to the visits.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Compare positive and negative health and safety practices.

  • Give examples of personal rights and responsibilities as members in a classroom.

  • Use technology to illustrate and communicate ideas related to class projects.

  • Follow steps or processes to complete increasingly complex tasks.

  • Understand the concepts of spending and saving money and why both are important.

Source: Iowa Core Parent Guides from the Iowa Department of Education.
Read the Iowa Core Parent Guide (English) and Iowa Core Parent Guide (Spanish).
Read the complete standards on the Iowa Core website.